Prime Minister-Designate Benjamin Netanyahu is close to forming his government, but a few things need to happen first, to make it happen. Netanyahu’s latest, biggest (though hardly exclusive) obstacle right now is Shas Chairman Aryeh Deri.
For Shas with its 11 mandates to join the Netanyahu government, the law must be amended to permit Deri to become minister despite his most recent conviction that entailed a three-year probation. The Speaker of the Knesset must approve the proposed legislation before it is submitted to the plenum, and the current Speaker, Mickey Levy, from Yesh Atid, is not likely to let the measure through. And so, the first order of business to facilitate the next Netanyahu government is replacing the Speaker.
On Monday, Speaker Levy announced: “A short time ago I received an irregular request from 64 members of the Knesset to put on the agenda a vote to elect a speaker for the 25th Knesset. Therefore, I determined that on this coming Monday, 12/12, at 4:00 PM, with the opening of the Knesset plenum, the vote will take place.”
Levy added for good measure: “Unfortunately, according to the media, the irregular request for the election of the speaker of the Knesset not during the swearing-in of the government was intended to promote legislation that would allow people who were convicted and sentenced to suspended prison terms to serve as ministers. Despite the enormous pain of knowing that this is the intention of the forming coalition, I will act statefully and respect the will of the electorate, and the plenum will be convened according to the law and the relevant High Court of Justice ruling on the matter.”
You’ll notice I used the word statefully, which Webster’s says “isn’t in the dictionary,” as the English translation for the Hebrew “Mamlachti,” the term the Speaker used in his statement. I don’t know if it will catch on. It’s a uniquely Israeli term suggesting obedience to the higher value which is the state, but not in a fascistic way. This choice would make the recent party headed by Benny Gantz and Gideon Sa’ar the Stateful Camp. Maybe.
Earlier on Monday, Deri stormed out of a three-way meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu and Bezalel Smotrich over their refusal to grant him the expropriation of the finance ministry’s powers over the budgets of the interior and health ministries, according to Kan 11 News. Deri demanded a “budget department bypass” to manage the ministries he is about to be handed. The shocked Smotrich objected strongly, insisting the budget department must have veto power over all financial issues, but Deri claimed Netanyahu had promised him just that.
Sounds like vintage Netanyahu, getting his underlings to fight one another by closing conflicting deals with each one of them.
Meanwhile, Itamar Ben Gvir is upset with Netanyahu for refusing to include in the coalition agreement an explicit note on passing legislation granting immunity to soldiers and changing the rules of engagement for both the army and the police, making it legally safer to shoot terrorists. A tense conversation followed between Ben Gvir and Netanyahu at Likud headquarters in Tel Aviv. The chairman of Otzma Yehudit inquired: “Why not include the immunity for soldiers explicitly in the agreement?” To which the Chairman of Likud replied: “We want a short, not a thick document.”
Ben Gvir then said: “I respect and appreciate you, but with all due respect, you have to fulfill what you promised. That’s why getting the position of deputy chairman of the ministerial legislative Committee is so important to me, to have leverage against this stuttering.”
Ouch. Eventually, Ben Gvir was told he won’t get the desired deputy position. This issue, too, will require a resolution before Netanyahu presents his next government.
United Torah Judaism will support the move to replace Speaker Levy, but it, like all of Netanyahu’s future coalition partners, is still far from getting on board. Netanyahu created his typical conflict involving them and Otzma Yehudit, over who would run the heritage ministry, Bibi apparently promised it to both parties. He is the Max Bialystock of Israeli politics, selling 100% shares of his next play to every one of his investors.
Meanwhile, the Haredim want to bring back the Tal Law of 2002 that regulated the Haredi military draft and which has been struck down by the Supreme Court in 2012. The court argued that the law wasn’t bringing the results they were hoping for, with only about 3,000 Haredi recruits per year. Since then, at least three governments collapsed over the Haredi draft and Israeli still doesn’t have a unified field theory on how to convince black-clad Haredi yeshiva students they would look great in khaki.
The Haredim expect to use the proposed override law that empowers a sufficient majority of the Knesset to push back the High Court’s revocation of legislation to also work in reinstituting Tal.
Incidentally, someone on a Channel 14 panel suggested Monday night that in assessing the “equal burden” for secular and religious Israelis, we should include the thousands of Haredi volunteer EMTs, as well as the members of ZAKA. It’s a thought.
Netanyahu’s candidates for Knesset Speaker are Yariv Levin and Amir Ohana. Likud MK Danny Danon has been making waves about his own ambition for the post and joined three other Likud MKs who threaten to retaliate if Netanyahu doesn’t hand them good ministerial-level jobs (4 Senior Likud MKs Declare War on Netanyahu If He Neglects Them). Netanyahu’s response (unofficially) has been that he was out there campaigning, he brought the voters in, while they, his unhappy members, sat home. Never mind that the reason they sat home was that he ordered them to.
The short of it is that Saturday night, December 10, Netanyahu’s mandate from the president to establish a new government will expire and he must either ask for a two-week extension or give up. And you know he won’t give up.